Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Edvard Grieg in Knightsbridge

Bruce Phillips, editor-at-large for the Boydell Press, writes:

On 20th September I was a guest of the Grieg Society of Great Britain at a reception given at the official residence of the Norwegian Ambassador to London and the World War II meeting place of the Norwegian government in exile under King Haakon. The Chairman of the Grieg Society, Boydell author Beryl Foster, addressed a gathering in one of the official rooms of this imposing building, One purpose of the occasion was to present a special medal to the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra for its superb recordings of Grieg’s complete orchestral works on the BIS label. Another was to hear a terrific performance by the outstanding young pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi of Grieg’s intensely moving Ballade for piano. Not overlooked however was the fact that Beryl’s book, The Songs of Edvard Grieg, was being published that day, and that two copies had been presented by Boydell as raffle prizes.

After the concert we were all invited by the Ambassador’s wife, Mrs Lindstrom, to partake of some very delicious Norwegian-style food. I spotted another Boydell author, Lionel Carley (Edvard Grieg in England), and was glad I had remembered to take a sample copy of his book and some flyers for it and for Daniel Grimley’s Grieg: Music, Landscape and Norwegian Identity (Boydell, 2006).

I also met again after a long interval Irene Lawford-Hinrichsen, star musical philatelist and author of a history of her family firm, C F Peters, publishers of Grieg among many other composers. Having been unsuccessful in persuading my former employers at a leading university press to publish it, I was not surprised to find that she had given publishers up as a bad job and produced the book herself. She happened to have a copy of it with her. Would I like to buy it at a modest discount? Reaching for my wallet I meekly assented, but Irene said I ought just to wait until the raffle tickets were drawn in case I won the copy she had contributed. Not having won anything in my life I thought this unlikely, but the money for the book stayed in my wallet.

The tension grew as the tickets were drawn. I was pleased to see that one copy of Beryl’s book was won by the general manager of the Bergen Philharmonic, Lorentz Reitan. But the acme of the evening’s enjoyment for me was attained when one of my tickets was called. I am now the proud possessor of Irene’s splendid volume which traces the history of Peters from its beginnings in Leipzig to the appalling problems faced by the firm in the Nazi era, and then its subsequent post war revival in Frankfurt, London and New York. And her inscription makes no mention of my earlier non-association with the book or the loss of her sale!

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